FAT CAT AND FRIENDS
Designed for pre-school children, Fat Cat and Friends was broadcast on weekday mornings on Network Ten between 1977 and 1987, and then on the Seven Network until 1992. It featured Fat Cat (Francis Aloysius Tom Cat), an orange cat with a green hat and red braces, played variously by Ralph Hadzic, Reg Whiteman and Melanie George. Other performers included John Oster and Jane Reilly, and musician Patsy Biscoe. The program was written, directed and produced by Murray George in the studios of SAS10 in Adelaide.
In 1979, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT) introduced pre-school and children’s Program Standards that required commercial broadcasters to broadcast minimum amounts of pre-school and children’s programs at specified times of the day. Children’s programs were to be approved by the tribunal before being broadcast, under the guidance of a Children’s Program Committee, made up of experts in production and child development.
In 1991, the committee reviewed Fat Cat and made extensive recommendations for changes to Fat Cat and Friends to make it more educational; there was also some concern about the ambiguity of Fat Cat’s gender. The Seven Network decided to cancel the program and begin again with a new pre-school program. This generated a media storm, first on talkback radio, then in the tabloid press and finally on the Nine Network’s A Current Affair. The issue moved beyond Fat Cat to a media trial of the standards themselves. The ABT reacted by abolishing the committee and putting the classification process under its direct management.
Fat Cat still appears as the mascot on TVW7’s highly successful telethon in Perth.